In a recent article on her blog “Get a Life, PhD,” Tanya Golash-Boza wrote “You don’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. to be a prolific scholar. You do have to write however.” I consider 5 am to be impossible, but not for the reason you think. More often than not, by 5 a.m. both my three-year-old and the baby are wide awake and ready for action. My day begins by dragging my weary body to the coffee maker and fetching breakfast. Then comes emptying the dishwasher, doing laundry, and, if I’m lucky, a quick walk on the treadmill. When my hard-working wife leaves for the day, I am often on solo parent duty for the next eleven hours or more. It should come as no surprise that such an environment is not particularly conducive to prolific writing. So does this mean I will dutifully get up and start writing at 4 am? Not likely.
In spite of the limitations on my writing and research time, there are some writing strategies I hope to implement consistently this year:
1. Start the day with writing – even for 10 minutes: My most productive writing has happened when I am able to maintain writing momentum from day to day. If I can get my mind back into my article draft at the start of the day, I am better able to keep processing ideas as I go about my daily tasks.
2. Make it easy to return to writing: I keep my article file open on my laptop throughout the day. This enables me to easily continue writing in case I have a flash of insight in between Lincoln Log sessions and reading the book No More Monsters For Me to my toddler for the umpteenth time.
3. Exercise daily: My mind feels clearer when I incorporate exercise into my daily routine. Creativity and physical movement seem to go together for me.
4. Less Facebook, More Twitter: One can waste a whole of time on social media. However, when I spend time on Twitter, I end up in conversations with writers and scholars. Also the curated content of articles has helped me to generate writing ideas. It can be awkward to network on Facebook and the endless barrage of cat pics and political rants get me nowhere.
5. Write, Revise, Pitch, Submit, and Be Done: I have two mostly-finished articles that have been languishing in my “Articles” folder for months because I have yet to get them “just right.” It’s time to wage war on my propensity for perfectionism.
So here are some of the things I intend to write about in the coming year. Wish me luck!
Book reviews and interviews: There are some great venues for writing about books that reach both scholars and the broader public. I intend to pitch some written reviews and podcast author interviews to The Los Angeles Review of Books channel Marginalia and the New Books Network (especially the Religion, and American Studies series). The podcasts on both these sites are terrific and they are an easy source of intellectual stimulation while going about my household chores.
Academic and Popular Articles: You will hopefully see articles on topics as varied as religious fashion, Islamic culinary practices in Philly, American civil religion, religion and hardcore punk music, contemporary beard culture, and the adventures of being a stay-at-home dad. My book Myths of the Runestone: Viking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America will be released by the University of Minnesota Press this fall and I am committed to making my academic research accessible to the broader public. Look for several articles in the fall that tease out the themes addressed my book.
Activist Writings: I am the lead organizer for a growing movement of clergy and laity in Eastern Pennsylvania United Methodist Churches that aims to challenge to church to reform its policies toward sexual minorities. I will be writing my own articles but also editing and promoting essays written by others. More details on that later.